After successfully landing myself a part-time job (hands up, baby, hands up!) I decided to take my experience, some thorough research (see below), and my mom’s advice (she’s a hiring manager) and turn it into a handy guide to help you out when you’re sitting in the hot seat. If you’re looking for the Do’s and Don’ts on resumes to help land you that interview, we got you covered for that.
Note: I am not claiming to be an interview expert, although that sounds like a cool job. I’m just passing on what worked for me and others I know.
The Do’s and Dont’s of Interviews
- Come prepared. Start with showing up a good 10 minutes early. But don’t be 30 minutes early because the hiring manager might not be prepared, and this can make them flustered. Usually when you get called in for an interview, the manager will ask for your resume and references, so bring a few copies of each. I went the extra mile and even brought my school schedule, so that they would know my availability. Put the papers in a clean portfolio, and take a pen in case you need to take notes. Avoid using your phone’s notepad as this looks unprofessional.
- Choose your references wisely. This means that, no, unfortunately, your mom can’t be a reference. No family member should be, actually. You want people who can be objective about you, but have worked with you and have witnessed your capabilities.
“He asked what I knew about the company’s history. I turned into a deer in the headlights.”
- Research amply beforehand. At my interview, the manager asked what I knew about the company’s history. I turned into a deer in the headlights. I hadn’t even thought about this, so he explained it to me on the spot. You don’t necessarily need to know every detail, but ensure you understand how they got to where they are today, what the company’s goals are, research the founders, and look into press releases and news articles on the company at hand. Show further interest in the company. You never know, you may be part of its next chapter.
- Think about questions you may be asked. You don’t want to get caught saying “uhhhhh” for the entire interview. To get you started: What is the greatest challenge you’ve had to overcome, and how did you do it? What can you contribute to this company? Why does your past experience make you the ideal candidate? In what ways do you fit the company’s beliefs and practices? Why do you want to work there? If I were to speak with your most recent (or current) supervisor, how would they describe you? If you were an animal, which would you be and why? Be prepared for the weird questions, too.
- Listen to the employer. He or she will be giving you important information, some of which may give you a hint as to the kind of employee they are looking for. They also may be telling you what the job could be like. Pay attention and reply using their terminology when you can. Show that you’re listening and care.
- Dress appropriately. Knowing what to wear can be a little tricky. The goal is professional. A general rule is business attire. For women, this means a not-too-short dress and suit jacket, or dress pants/skirt and jacket, with dress shirts/blouses and dress shoes. For men, business means a suit and tie with polished dress shoes. Don’t even think about wearing jeans. Just don’t. Oh, and not too much cologne, because the hiring manager might be allergic.
- Be professional. You can be enthusiastic and energetic, but remember that this is a job interview, not hanging out with friends. Hiring managers want to feel some connection with you. Think firm handshakes and direct eye contact, not secret handshakes and avoidance.
- Be honest. It really is the best policy. Plus, you don’t want to be caught in a lie in an interview. That’s just not pretty.
- Follow up. If you haven’t heard back in the time period that the company said they would reply, follow up in a courteous manner. Don’t be pushy or overzealous here.
- Be intimidated if you’re missing a certain skill. Show the employer why they should give you a shot anyway, and let them know that you are willing to learn the tricks of the trade. You’re eager and a quick learner. I didn’t have any previous retail experience, but I got hired anyway. Why? Because you can teach a person to sell merchandise, but you can’t teach them to have a personality.
- Just put down any name for your references! You want to have people’s permission to give out their contact information. Not only that, but you’ll want them to know that there is a possibility that they’ll be contacted, so they can prepare and make a good case for you.
- Go in with your head down. Stand up nice and tall with a smile on your face. Have confidence! I get it, interviews are nerve-racking, but you can’t let unease affect how you act during the interview. Not only will the employer be paying attention to your verbal answers, they’ll be monitoring your body language, too. Relax. Fold your hands on the table or your lap. Be your best self.
“You can teach a person to sell merchandise. You can’t teach them to have a personality.”
- Be too cocky. I know, conflicting, but there is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. You want the employer to know that you are good at something, but you don’t want to go on about it forever. Emphasize, but don’t make it seem like your only good quality. And never act like you’re going to get the job no matter what.
- Ramble. Answer the questions calmly, concisely and clearly. (Hey look, alliteration!) You don’t want to waste your interview time with unnecessary anecdotes that never end. This is why it’s good to practice answering questions beforehand.
- Show up late. Tardiness does not win you any brownie points with the employer. Be on time, if not slightly early to show that you are serious about this job.
- Forget to ask questions. It’s best to think of them beforehand, so that when the employer asks if you have any questions (and they will), and you will again look like you’ve come prepared. Asking questions lets the employer know that you are interested in what’s going on with the company, and how it works.
Lastly, don’t be discouraged. If you don’t get the job, use the interview as experience. Reflect on what happened and grade yourself. Use it to improve for your next interview.
Do you have interview advice? Have a interview horror story? Let us know below!
Photo by Andrey Popov
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.